High prices? Start with the airline industry, Mr Fels | Riotact
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Are prices of airline tickets unfairly high? Photo: File.

If Allan Fels is serious about exposing Australian businesses who are ripping us all off, a good starting point would be Australian airlines.

And while he’s crunching those numbers, which will certainly make his eyes water, he might also have a look at how Australian Government policy is protecting the airline industry and acting as a roadblock to genuine competition which could drive down prices for us poor old long-suffering taxpayers.

Former ACCC boss Fels has been engaged by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to look into “price gouging and unfair pricing practices”. How much time does he have?

The announcement came on the same day it was revealed Qatar had been flying “ghost flights” between Melbourne and Adelaide – near-empty planes shuttling between the two cities. It’s the only way Qatar Airlines can get around Australia’s restrictive airline policy which actively limits the number of international flights coming in and out of Australia every week.

This is how stupid the policy is. There are restrictions on the number of flights an airline like Qatar can fly into main hubs like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, but no restriction if the final destination is a “minor” airport. Remember Qatar used to fly into Canberra, after first stopping in Sydney.

At the moment Qatar can fly 28 weekly services into the four major airports. It wants to fly more often and has asked the Albanese Government for permission to schedule 21 more trips. It’s been refused because – wait for it – it would go against Australia’s “national interest”.

That’s great. Here’s how the national interest is working out for us.

Let’s pretend we all have enough money lying around to fly to the UK for Christmas. Because we are all very supportive of the “national interest”, let’s book a flight with our national carrier. Except let’s not, because a return flight to London with Qantas at Christmastime will set us back $4791.

Cathay Pacific, an airline every bit as good if not better than Qantas, is selling return airfares for $3934. Both flights take around the same time. There’s a Vietnam Airlines flight, slightly longer, going for $3084.

The funny thing is, most of the aviation industry, certainly all of the tourism sector, and most of the state and territory leaders – including Andrew Barr – support international airlines getting more access to Australia.

By national interest, do we actually mean “Qantas’s interest”? We wouldn’t complain if the flying kangaroo offered competitive and affordable domestic and international fares, but quite obviously it’s not doing that.

There’s no doubt Australia needs a strong airline sector, just as we need a strong banking sector. But at the moment Qantas, and Virgin Australia, are taking the mickey, aided and abetted by a Federal Government that is justifying the stifling of competition because it’s in the “national interest”.

Fels issued a warning when he accepted his new gig as the man to call out the shysters ripping off everyday Australians.

“It’s time to take a serious look at what is a serious problem, does Australia have a price gouging problem and if so to what extent?” he said.

“In a cost-of-living crisis, price gouging has real consequences. Those affected by this deserve an opportunity to express themselves.”

Good luck Allan Fels. It’s time someone kept the bastards honest, and you just might be the man for the job.

Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/650884109/3m6H-JOHMCLp7ZcL?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

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